Blog

Mar3
2015

TWLOHA Movie Discussion Guide

By Casey Gillingham and Chris Schrimscher

As you’ll see in the “To Write Love on Her Arms” movie, TWLOHA started with a story. The story was Renee’s, and it was one of brokenness and addiction. But Renee realized all those years ago, as you’ll see in the movie, that hope and healing can be found in honest community. It is this desire for honesty that has always been at the core of what we do at TWLOHA.

Today we invite you to be honest. We hope you’ll use this discussion guide to start a conversation at home, with your friends, and in your community about the issues and themes you’ll see in this movie. We hope this movie and the story it is based on inspire you to talk about things that matter. We hope it helps you believe that things can change, that better days might be ahead.

How Language Perpetuates Stigma 

There are examples throughout the movie in which one character belittles another using harmful, insensitive, or triggering phrases. One instance is when Jessie refers to Renee’s self-injury scars as “pity scars.”

What does that type of language convey about the issues in the movie? 

What does it communicate to the person who is struggling?

When you’re struggling, what words do you want people to say to you? When you speak to someone else who might be struggling, what words will you use?  

“Secrets Make Us Sick”

The phrase “secrets make us sick” is used several times throughout the movie.

What do you think this phrase means? 

How can we make sure that our secrets don’t make us sick?

Why Community Matters

In the movie, Renee transitions from having unhealthy relationships to finding a healthy community of people to support her during treatment and recovery.

What does a healthy community look like to you? 

Who makes up your community? 

Why do we need to set boundaries in situations when a loved one is struggling? 

How do we show others compassion while making our own health a priority?

Asking for Help

There are several scenes in the movie where Renee is actively struggling with something but doesn’t ask for help.

Why is it sometimes hard to ask for help?

What keeps you from asking for help when you need it? How can you change that? 

How would you ask for help if you needed it? 

Who can you turn to for help? 

Recovery and Relapse

Near the end of the movie, Renee goes back to David’s apartment to find that he has relapsed.

Why would David hide the fact that he is struggling? 

What does this say about the shame associated with relapse and asking for help? 

Sharing Your Story 

TWLOHA is born from the surprising response to Renee’s story. The honesty in her story seems to give other people permission to be honest.

Who have you shared your story with? 

Why did you decide to share part of your story with these people?

How do you make sure you are sharing your story in a healthy way? 

The #TWLOHAMovie is now available on DVD and digital HD.

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Comments (35)

  1. Kendra Harrison

    i have waited such a long time to see this movie as I have followed Renee’s story and TWLOHA. I am in the mental health field and have worked with youth dealing with all these same issues; I think that’s why educating people about the negative stigma attached to mental illness is so important to me. When people are hurt, they lash out and say hurtful things, like Jessie did with the pity scars comment. Essentially she was down playing Renee’s feelings and not properly validating them. I loved this movie and will share it with many others!

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  2. Anonymous

    Renee’s story started a movement. A movement of love, hope and help. I’m 20 months sober and feel ashamed. I’m not feeling this way because of being an addict alcoholic anymore, I feel ashamed because I am still dealing with depression and self harm issues. I felt that once my addictions were dealt with I would be fixed, but TWLOHA has shown me that I’m not alone and there is nothin to be ashamed of. That this is something that I’m not alone in and that its ok to ask for help. TWLOHA and Renee’s story have helped me see that it’s ok to be sad and it’s ok to have struggles. In the special features for this film someone said “the reason she cuts will never leave, but the way she responds to those things can change.” In time I hope to be able to reach out and take action to change my response to these things and that hope comes from TWLOHA and for that I’m forever grateful.

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  3. Bleeding when Needed.

    Why is my truth banded?

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  4. Elaine Huse

    This comment could not be shared due to the nature of the message.

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    1. Claire Biggs

      Thank you so much for sharing part of your story with us.

      TWLOHA is not a 24-hour helpline, nor are we trained mental health professionals. TWLOHA hopes to serve as a bridge to help.

      If this is an emergency or if you need immediate help, please call and talk to someone at 1-800-273-TALK or reach out to the LifeLine Crisis Chat at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx“. We also have a list of local resources and support groups on our FIND HELP page. Please know that we also respond to every email we receive at info@twloha.com.

      Reply  |  
  5. kala

    This comment could not be shared due to the nature of the message.

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Thank you so much for sharing part of your story with us.

      TWLOHA is not a 24-hour helpline, nor are we trained mental health professionals. TWLOHA hopes to serve as a bridge to help.

      If this is an emergency or if you need immediate help, please call and talk to someone at 1-800-273-TALK or reach out to the LifeLine Crisis Chat at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx“. We also have a list of local resources and support groups on our FIND HELP page. Please know that we also respond to every email we receive at info@twloha.com.

      Reply  |  
  6. Robert

    I believe that the phrase “secrets make us sick” means that if you hold everything in and not ask for help or talk to someone, things just get worse. “Secrets” or how I think of them, the pain/suffering/not talking to someone, get worse and build up until you can’t take it anymore. I.e. “Making us sick”. I don’t always talk about my issues but I do write, draw, and listen to music to get out of my own head and escape from my pain.

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  7. Christie

    I have just finished watching the moving which had me anticipating hearing this story for some time now. I am a big ball of emotion! Crying, laughing, joy, sadness, hope, despair! In the end I felt like part of the family!!as a social worker and a paren I struggle with some of these issues myself both professionally and have personally at times . I want to commend you and your organization for standing up speaking out and most importantly telling the truth an voicing such an incredibly brave and important message. I applaud all your efforts. Keep up he good work and god bless you all and those healing, helping and BEAUTIFUL arms!!!

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  8. Brooke

    I watched the TWLOHA film last night and let me just say, inspiring. I have never seen anything in this vernacular that so openly displays the ugliness and isolation of addiction, self-injury, depression and the struggle for help and recovery. As a human with bi-polar disorder, substance abuse problems, and a long 13 year history of self-injury, seeing this film is a reassurance that there are so many of us struggling. It was difficult at times to watch, knowing this person was and is still me at times. I am celebrating 2 years in recovery for self-injury, a number I never thought I would reach. I realized also that the key is community. If I didn’t have the friends I have, my fiance’ and my son, I would still be consumed by the darkness. They didn’t just save me, but they showed me I have the strength to save myself. “Secrets Make Us Sick” is something I’m going to get tatted as it is something I can never forget. When I hide with my illness and my hurt, I hurt more, I lose control, because there is no one that knows how much pain I’m in and the isolation makes it worse. I have to remember the way out is to ask for help and to never stop.

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  9. Jessica Elizabeth

    I remember years ago when I first heard of twloha. The movement helped me during some of my darkest times. I’m healthy now, some 9 years later, and watched the movie tonight. Tears streamed down my face. Thank you for sharing Renee’s story. Thank you for helping me through mine.

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  10. Mel Tello

    OMG, I think you need a lot of courage to afront this situation,
    I just saw the movie and I though I felt a little identified with Rene history, I mean everybody have inside demons and problems that we keep for ourselves,and it’s true if you don’t take out all these, if you don’t trust in someone to ask for help you keep falling deep.

    I clap the labor because you create some of confidence to all those who have problems with drugs, or feel they’re alone.
    Thanks for what you do, for help others and for give me a new vision of life, to bring me the opportunity to appreciate what I have, to appreciate my life, my family , my friends.

    REGRETS!!!

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  11. sophia

    This comment could not be shared due to the nature of the message.

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Thank you so much for sharing part of your story with us.

      TWLOHA is not a 24-hour helpline, nor are we trained mental health professionals. TWLOHA hopes to serve as a bridge to help.

      If this is an emergency or if you need immediate help, please call and talk to someone at 1-800-273-TALK or reach out to the LifeLine Crisis Chat at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx“. We also have a list of local resources and support groups on our FIND HELP page. Please know that we also respond to every email we receive at info@twloha.com.

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  12. Emily

    seeing the movie I was shocked … never thought someone would be willing to have that .. renee is very strong .. is increibl their strength all for what happened … is something that many or few had ever .. to see the movie .. I saw myself .. previous years .. so far I hide all that I had passed behind me … but still .. I have not the courage to tell .. yet I can not say anything for fear or because people just walk away .. the truth never went for help .. and finding this I realize that I am not the only one …. be strong

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  13. Natalia W

    I think I’ve watched the film like 5 times down and all I think is omg I relate to this much because I fully understand the whole “secrets makes us sick” phrase! As I remember being in position where there was something I didn’t say to anyone and it really did make me sick, like it made my situation worse.

    And I think Renee was so amazing to go ask for help because confessing to yourself that you need help is so hard but then being able to search for it is even harder, so that makes her such a inspiration person!

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  14. Ashley

    This comment could not be shared due to the nature of the message.

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Thank you so much for sharing part of your story with us.

      TWLOHA is not a 24-hour helpline, nor are we trained mental health professionals. TWLOHA hopes to serve as a bridge to help.

      If this is an emergency or if you need immediate help, please call and talk to someone at 1-800-273-TALK or reach out to the LifeLine Crisis Chat at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx“. We also have a list of local resources and support groups on our FIND HELP page. Please know that we also respond to every email we receive at info@twloha.com.

      Reply  |  
  15. courtney

    This comment could not be shared due to the nature of the message.

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Thank you so much for sharing part of your story with us.

      TWLOHA is not a 24-hour helpline, nor are we trained mental health professionals. TWLOHA hopes to serve as a bridge to help.

      If this is an emergency or if you need immediate help, please call and talk to someone at 1-800-273-TALK or reach out to the LifeLine Crisis Chat at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx“. We also have a list of local resources and support groups on our FIND HELP page. Please know that we also respond to every email we receive at info@twloha.com.

      Reply  |  
    2. Claire Biggs

      Thank you so much for sharing part of your story with us.

      TWLOHA is not a 24-hour helpline, nor are we trained mental health professionals. TWLOHA hopes to serve as a bridge to help.

      If this is an emergency or if you need immediate help, please call and talk to someone at 1-800-273-TALK or reach out to the LifeLine Crisis Chat at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx“. We also have a list of local resources and support groups on our FIND HELP page. Please know that we also respond to every email we receive at info@twloha.com.

      Reply  |  
  16. emily

    i understand now.

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  17. Concerned Teacher

    I started teaching 10 years ago with the goal of becoming a basketball coach at a Division I school. That first year of teaching I met a student who was struggling with several issues and it completely changed my life. I realized that there was a much greater purpose for me being at this school. Over the course of the past 10 years, I have met with kids for all kinds of heart breaking reasons. I am thankful for a resource like TWLOHA and this movie. The movie opened my eyes (somewhat) to what my students are fighting against everyday. I plan on using Renee’s story as an example for these students that there is hope. Thank you for making this movie.

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    1. Claire Biggs

      We’re so grateful your students have you in their lives! We’d love to send you some TWLOHA bracelets if you’d like.

      Please send your mailing address and information (how many bracelets you need, etc.) to merch@twloha.com, and we’ll take care of the rest! We can also send you info cards (with information about TWLOHA) if that’s something that would be helpful to keep in your classroom. Please let us know what you think is best!

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      1. Concerned Teacher

        That would be awesome! Thanks so much!

        Reply  |  
  18. Ronnie

    I want to thank you for sharing this movie with us. I have struggled with self injury, depression and generalized anxiety disorder for 14 years. I currently celebrated a year free of it so I am proud of that fact. The film was at times difficult to watch as I could relate to the lows and the _______. It also gave me hope which is hard to come by sometimes. I loved how music played a central role in the film. If it wasn’t for the band Skillet, I wouldn’t have made it through. And if it wasn’t in my belief in superheroes/Superman (similar to the belief in fairy tales in the movie), I wouldn’t have gotten through it. My self harm took up 14 years of my life so I can’t expect the triggers and urges to be gone in a year. It’s gonna take as much time as it took for me to quit. I can accept that. Thank you so much for helping to break the stigma of self harm, depression and suicide. We need more people to talk about it. To say that the struggle is real. It’s not for “pity” or a cry for attention- it’s our way of dealing with the pain we can’t verbalize. And that there is hope and we can recover.

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  19. Ashley Lynn

    For me, it can be so hard to ask for help. I feel like part of my problem is that a lot of people in my past, the people who were toxic, would just pick on me and belittle me if I mentioned that I wasn’t doing well. I’m still terrified to be honest about struggling and needing help because I don’t want to face the same reactions from different people. This causes me to keep secrets and I end up getting worse and worse in my depression and it makes it harder to stay in the path of recovery. I’m still fighting it and still on track, but it is hard(but worth it). I think it’s time for me to be honest with those I love and ask for help and support.

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  20. Colleen F.

    First of all, I’d like to thank Renee for sharing her story in the first place. Of course I had read about her story via this website, but as I watched the movie (which is amazing), I realized that it takes courage to share something so personal as a story like Renee’s. I suffer from Depression, severe Anxiety, and OCD. I never had Depression up until a few years ago. My doctors think it’s from holding back my fear of my physical illnesses and I have quite a lot, ranging from Arthritis to Epilepsy. I was always pretty good when it came to doctors, medications, shots and blood work, years of physical therapy, and adjusting to the fact that I couldn’t do what normal kids do like take a simple gym class. About three years ago, I had a really bad seizure, snapped my femur in half, was in rehab for a month, and I have been using crutches ever since. I can’t work anymore. I used to work as a secretary in our local school department. I loved it and I loved interacting with people. Now, I only go out if I have to because I am afraid. Of everything from being in a store, restraint, to being in a car. The only place I am not afraid is when I go to concerts. Like Renee, I love music. Hanson is my band of choice. Their music speaks to me and I have met them several times. I can honestly call them the nicest, most genuine guys in the music business. In my opinion :). I find comfort in music. When the line “Secrets make you sick” is used, to me that means I’m afraid to talk about everything and anything. I see a counselor on a biweekly basis and even during those sessions I find myself holding back. I feel things building up inside me but when I go to talk, nothing comes out of my mouth and then when I can’t talk about what’s bothering me, I feel sick. Literally, the only person who I tell everything to is my best friend. For who I am extremely grateful that she entered my life when she did. And when I talk to her I don’t feel ashamed. And I love her for that. Sometimes I feel that she’s the only one who gets me. Don’t get me wrong I love my family more than words can say, but I feel as if they don’t get me. Sometimes I just like to hide in my room blasting music. Listening to music is what I would consider my therapy. It’s hard for me to talk or ask for help. But now that I see Renee’s story play out it makes me glad to know that help really is there. Sometimes when you don’t even go looking for it. And I’d like to thank Jamie. For starting To Write Love On Her Arms. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. To all the interns and everyone behind the scenes. Thank you.

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  21. April

    I watched the TWOLHA movie and found myself nervous. As the movie went on a enjoyed it very much. I have been struggling with self harm for 22 years, and for many years thought I was the only one. I still have only told about four people that I struggle daily. I am afraid to tell others…I am afraid of rejection and judgement. I hope this movie will open the doors of communication for many people. I agree Secerts make you Sick.

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  22. Elaine

    I just wanted to say that, as a teacher and a mother, I love your movement! I hosted a small after school showing of the movie last week before spring break and had such an amazing moment of open communication with my high school students. They loved the movie- as I did!- and they’ve even requested that we host it again. The topics covered and the answers given brought tears to my eyes. Teenagers have such a rep for being heartless, but all I saw in that moment was love.

    Thank you for giving a platform for me to use in the classroom! Thank you.

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    1. Mr. Cisney

      Elaine,
      My school is looking into how to properly show this movie. Can you share with me the procedure you used? Did you get permission slips? How did you handle the discussion? Any information would be very helpful.

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  23. Kay

    I’m still suffering from depression, ocd, and loss. It hurts, I need help

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Thank you so much for sharing part of your story with us.

      TWLOHA is not a 24-hour helpline, nor are we trained mental health professionals. TWLOHA hopes to serve as a bridge to help.

      If this is an emergency or if you need immediate help, please call and talk to someone at 1-800-273-TALK or reach out to the LifeLine Crisis Chat at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx“. We also have a list of local resources and support groups on our FIND HELP page. Please know that we also respond to every email we receive at info@twloha.com.

      Reply  |  
  24. tms

    This movie has fallen in my lap at a critical time. As I struggle with the acceptance of an alcohol addiction, that has set me back with my drug addiction. In which four years ago I entered rehab. Watching this movie, I sat here and cried. I felt iv just watched my once was life unfold, with the realization I’m slowly falling back into it. Between the constant boozing, life has become chaotic, drugs are slowly finding there way and depression is getting to me. Being diagnosed bi-polar many years ago I’m able to see the signs. I’m not sure why I’m commenting, I normally just suffer in silence but for once, I want to stop this before I lose control completely. Life seems to spiral so fast that sometimes I forget to look up and once I do, I find I’m running into a wall. Not sure what I’m searching for on here, but this is were I’m finding myself.

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  25. Kota

    I’ve waited for a movie of Renee’s story to come out since I was in 8th grade. I’m 17 now and this organization has helped me through so much some might not understand. The phrase “Secrets make us sick” I believe they do. I’ve had so many secrets in my family through out my life that i’ve always been scared to talk about that I needed to tell someone, I finally did. My dad was an alcoholic/addict for years…Everytime someone talks about alcohol abuse I cry and I didn’t understand why because I couldn’t remember. Til i told my counselor and our eyes remember things that are mind doesn’t. Our mind supresses memories that we fairly don’t want to remember. I’m an honest person for the most part. But when it comes to my depression and anxiety, I’m never honest. I’m learning to be honest with myself now because of this movie/ movement

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